Swimmer’s Ear: The Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Prevent It

Swimmer’s Ear: The Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Prevent It.

Swimmer's ear will more than likely happen to most kids who spend enough time in the water. As a parent, you know how painful of a condition it can be, but how can you identify it quickly so your child doesn't have to suffer for an extended period? Better yet, what are some steps you can take to help prevent it in the first place?

What Is Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa)?

When people think of an ear infection, they may think of a middle ear infection because it is common to see in children. However, swimmer's ear differs from a middle ear infection (Otitis Media). Swimmer's ear or Otitis Externa is the infection and inflammation of the external ear canal. However, because of the barrier of protection the eardrum gives us, a swimmer's ear infection only irritates the skin located on the external side of the eardrum, including the auditory canal and the skin of the outer ear.

What Causes Swimmer's Ear?

The leading cause of swimmer's ear in the past was most likely bacteria that entered the ear while people were swimming in dirty or polluted water. The bacteria could enter the ear but not get past the eardrum, which would infect the outer ear canal resulting in a bacterial infection. However, the water that most people swim in these days is clean, so what causes the infection?

It is believed that the regular rinsing of the ear that occurs while swimming in clean water may leave the ear without enough ear wax to keep it safe. Ear wax helps control the pH balance in the ear, which makes it difficult for bacteria to grow. However, when the ear wax is washed out, it can expose the outer ear to infection.

Will Swimmer's Ear Go Away on Its Own?

Minor cases may go away on their own; however, the ear pain can be extreme, so you may seek out medical attention before it has a chance to go away. For more severe cases, medical treatment may be required, and with treatment, the infection can be resolved in 7 to 10 days.

Symptoms of Swimmer's Ear

The symptoms of Otitis Externa are easy to identify. While some people may experience different symptoms, the general symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in the ear
  • Swollen and red ear
  • Drainage or discharge
  • Temporary hearing loss or muffled hearing
  • Ringing in the ear

Treatment

There are several proper treatment options that you can utilize to treat this type of ear infection. Including:

Home Remedies

There are many ways to try and relieve the discomfort associated with swimmer’s ear including using over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, and analgesics. These types of drugs work by reducing swelling and relieving itching. They also provide temporary relief until the problem resolves itself naturally. If none of those treatments work, then there are other things you can do at home, like soaking a cotton ball in white vinegar and placing them inside the ears. This will help reduce any itchiness and irritation caused by the swimmer’s ears. You should avoid putting anything into your ears if it feels painful since doing so might lead to an infection.

Medications

Medication is usually recommended when treating swimmer’s infections. Antibiotics are used to kill off the bacteria causing the infection. In addition, steroids are often prescribed to decrease the amount of fluid present within the ear. Steroids have been shown to speed up the recovery time from swimmer’s infection. There are two main classes of antibiotics commonly used to treat swimmer’s disease: penicillin and erythromycin.

Ear Drops

Most of the time, antibiotic ear drops will be prescribed when someone is suffering from a swimmer's infection. Ear drops contain medication designed specifically to fight against the bacteria responsible for the infection.

Can Swimmer's Ear be Prevented?

Yes. There are several things you can do to prevent swimmer’s ear from occurring in the first place including:

  • Wear water-resistant plugs
  • Wear a form-fitted mold
  • Use swimmer's ear drops after swimming to help keep the ears dry after swimming.
    ○ Using a hairdryer after using these drops can also aid in drying the ear after swimming.
  • Don't clean out ear wax using cotton swabs or other items before swimming.

Suffering From Ear Pain?

At Lubbock Sinus Doctor, we can diagnose and treat conditions of the ear. Whether you are suffering from a chronic condition or an ear infection, a treatment plan developed at Lubbock Sinus Doctor can have you feeling better in no time.

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